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Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art by Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects

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Queen’s Park Crescent, Toronto, Ontario, Canada


The Gardiner is one of the keystones of the cultural renaissance of Toronto. The city’s cultural quarter has been re-inventing itself over the past decade; the Gardiner is opposite the Libeskind-extended Royal Ontario Museum and round the corner from the Royal Conservatory of Music.

When Keith Wagland designed the Ceramics Museum in 1983 he made it future-proof by giving it a structure that would allow for upward expansion. Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg have taken advantage – and side-stepped numerous planning constraints, including protected views of an adjacent neo-classical building – by putting the 14,000 square foot extension on top of the old museum. The extra space hosts a new gallery for large-scale contemporary works, better storage, a new studio and facilities for the museum’s research and community-outreach activities. The existing building was re-configured to throw the focus on the fine collection of ceramics.

The old and new work is all of a piece; the original pink granite cladding has been replaced by a stylish cream limestone, which complements the sleek glass and black granite columns. The scheme is further knitted together by some understated landscaping.

Internally the removal of a staircase in the entrance hall was the move which unlocked a series of solutions. The shop could move to the front to tempt in passers-by and circulation could be improved with a new lift/stair tower. Additionally a former underground car park was dug out to provide the extra metre of headroom for new ceramic studios and, above all this, on the roof of the second floor, a terrace was created serving the third-floor pavilion. The whole scheme successfully adopts a palette of materials and textures that subtly comment on the nature of the ceramic exhibits.

Client: Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art
Structural Engineer: Halsall Associates
Mechanical Engineers: Crossey Engineering
Exhibition Designers: PS Design
Contractor: Urbacon
Contact value: $10m Canadian
Date of occupation: June 2006
Gross internal area: 4,299 sq m

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